Amazon's Twitch says it will now punish users for certain harmful offline behavior

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Attendees walk past televisions showing live streams of Twitch Interactive’s video service during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Twitch, the Amazon-owned video streaming platform primarily used by gamers to livestream their games, announced a new policy Wednesday empowering the company to take action against users who display certain harmful behaviors entirely offline.

The policy represents a unique approach among social media peers at a time when the industry has been under escalating pressure to institute strong and consistent content-moderation policies. As lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have threatened to strip online platforms of their liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, many platforms have taken steps to place stronger guardrails on what users can post.

Under the new policy, Twitch can suspend users for up to an indefinite period of time after a third-party investigator determines there is strong evidence the person has engaged in certain offline behaviors. These actions include engaging in deadly violence, terrorist activities, grooming children for sexual exploitation, committing sexual assault or even “acting as an accomplice to non-consensual sexual activities.” It will also continue to consider offline harassment in cases where a user alleges abuse online.

Twitch said it will work with “an experienced investigations law firm” to determine the validity of claims, which will rely at times on accessing evidence from law enforcement. The company said it would not take action on a user’s account until it concludes its investigation and confirms evidence of wrongdoing.

The harmful offline behaviors do not need to involve another Twitch user to be considered a violation, a spokesperson confirmed. That’s based on the notion that people who engage in these types of behaviors are more likely to create safety risks for the Twitch community, the spokesperson added.

Other social media platforms also take into account real-world harm propagated by users on their platforms, but Twitch’s new policy is unique for its explicitness in tackling completely offline behavior and for some of the types of offline behavior it prohibits. For example, Facebook’s community standards prevent mass murderers and members of